After delaying the search due to heavy rain Friday afternoon, the wreckage of a Mozambique Airlines flight has been found in Bwabwata National Park, near the borders of Angola and Botswana. “The plane has been completely burnt to ashes and there are no survivors,” stated Willy Bampton, deputy commissioner of the Namibia Police Force.
On Friday, a Mozambique Airlines Embraer 190 aircraft took off from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and was headed toward Luanda, the capital of Angola, when it crashed near the border of Angola and Botswana. “We could see it on our radar, and we could see it was descending very quickly, at a rate of about 100 feet per second. We lost it from our screens at 3,000 feet above sea level,” reported Tobias Günzel, acting director of Namibia’s Civil Aviation Department.
While one thinks it would not be hard to find a crashed plane, one has to take into account the geography of where the plane crashed. Bwabwata National Park is 2,422 square miles in area and is part of the Tree and Shrub Savannah biome, meaning it is one of the more wooded areas of the African plains. The park is home to diverse wildlife, such as elephants, lions, and wild dogs, and hence carries a low population-density.
The park is also surrounded by rivers and has no paved roads, making access to the area extremely difficult. Namibian authorities called in helicopters to help with the search on Friday, but had to recall the search due to unfavorable weather conditions.
Of the 33 people who died in the wreck, 6 were crew, 10 were from Mozambique, 9 were from Angola, 5 were from Portugal, and there was one citizen from each of France, Brazil, and China.
Embraer, the Brazilian company who manufactures the plane model which crashed, has stated that “… a team of Embraer technicians is preparing to go to the scene of the accident,” in order to investigate the cause of the wreck.
However, the fault may not lie with the plane manufacturer. In 2012, African airlines accounted for nearly half of the fatalities from Western-manufactured airplanes despite only being responsible for 3% of worldwide air traffic.
Tony Tyler, the CEO of the International Air Transport Association, has gone on record as stating that “… the overall safety record for Africa remains a problem that we must fix.”
Hopefully this crash, which resulted in 33 fatalities of people from multiple nations and destroyed part of a national park, will be the incentive Africa needs to improve its airline safety.
Image via Mozambique Airlines’s Website